Shawn Stephens of the Batavia Fire is celebrating 30 years of service to the City of Batavia and the surrounding communities with whom the Fire Department often coordinates.
We asked Shawn to share some of his thoughts about his experiences with the Fire Department.
What have been the biggest changes in firefighting since you started your career?
It seems that firefighting is like a lot of other things in life. Changes seem to come full circle. As we learn more and our technology improves, we change the way we fight fires. So many things have changed in the last 30 years, it would be hard to even mention half of them. Our department has always been a huge training department and because of that, we really have a leg up on ways to do things more safely and efficiently than we did in the past. Of course safety is the number one priority.
If your current Shawn Stephens could go back and talk to rookie Shawn Stephens, what would you share?
I think I would tell him that he will never be disappointed in his decision to do this career and in his hometown town. It has been the greatest decision I have made and I don’t regret a moment of it.
Are there any particularly memorable fires in Batavia or other communities that you recall?
There are many that I will never forget. Everything from large fires here in town, to troublesome fires, ones that went perfectly, and a few major out of town events, like working at FDNY after 9/11, the floods of 96, the Chicago floods, tornados, special rescues. It doesn’t take a huge disaster to be memorable though, the time you saved someone’s family member from a heart attack, helped that little kid in a car crash, they all have memories, good and bad.
What is one of the things that you think people least realize about firefighting as a profession?
I think people are somehow still hung up on the fact they think we just sit around and wait for a big fire. Most of the general public has no idea what we really do in a day. These days we are so busy with things that actually running calls for help messes up our day of work! I used to tell people that our job is to go help people when no one has any idea who to call for whatever it is that is going wrong at that moment. From an explosion to an animal stuck in a window well, to a house filling up with water or a weird noise and odor, who knows what we will do next, which is exactly why I love my job..no two days are ever the same.
How does being a firefighter make you look at the community where you live a little differently?
It makes me appreciate the little things more, I think. You get a real insight into people when you are around them when things are going bad. I have had the chance to work with the community to help families touched by disaster and it really opens your eyes to how great our community is.
Are there people in your department or profession that you really admire, and why?
There have been many people who I have had the pleasure to work with or learn from or even just meet in person and share a story. I admire and respect them all. I don’t want to make a list and take a chance on forgetting anyone, so suffice it to say, if you have helped me over the years, you know who you are and I thank you.
What has being a firefighter taught you about life?
This career has changed my life in many ways, some for the good and some not so good, but every moment has been an experience I treasure and will keep those memories with me my whole life. Knowing my kids and my family have been proud of what I do is one of the biggest rewards you can ask for!
Congratulations Shawn. And thank you for your service.